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# Red Herring solutions to puzzles

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Excuse me if this was covered in a previous forum topic. I did some searching but did not find a thread that was specifically about this subject and thought it could be amusing. Over the course of a few years of working puzzle caches, I have a few moments where I was absolutely positive that I had the solution or right approach, only to find out I was chasing a Red Herring solution. When appropriately done these can make you smile. In other cases, it just points out how clueless you really are.

Example A: One of our local puzzles involves a 15x10 matrix of two-digit numbers. This one had a couple red herrings but the one that I bit on involved recognizing a particular pattern in the matrix of numbers. A very nice solution resulted from this pattern, just too perfect for coincidence. Only the problem was the coordinates were a private residence and not searchable (plus the coord checker tells you this is wrong). Turns out it was the home of another one of the local puzzle cachers. This red herring was intentional and meant to give that other cacher a good laugh, but amusingly he never found the "tribute" red-herring.

Example B: One puzzle I worked on had multiple stages with different ciphers. One of the ciphers involved a 6x7 grid of numbers (digits 0-9). At one of the other stages I found a string of text with 42 characters in it and assumed that it related to the grid of numbers. I spent months trying to determine how to use the matrix to decode the text string. Turns out they weren't related at all. The CO hadn't intended this as a Red Herring, but I bit on it hard anyways.

Obviously, sharing solutions to puzzle caches is forbidden, but sharing red-herring solutions? Seems harmless to me? And provides a forum to vent puzzle solving frustration... (or delight if you will).

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Not really the same deal...the puzzle solution was correct, but when I arrived at GZ I found this at the first stage of a local multi:

I was frustrated to the point of emailing the owner from the site...then the second I hit the send button I looked up and saw another post cap about a dozen feet away. Of course that was the correct one...and this CO was just having a bit of fun with us.

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Excuse me if this was covered in a previous forum topic. I did some searching but did not find a thread that was specifically about this subject and thought it could be amusing. Over the course of a few years of working puzzle caches, I have a few moments where I was absolutely positive that I had the solution or right approach, only to find out I was chasing a Red Herring solution. When appropriately done these can make you smile. In other cases, it just points out how clueless you really are.

Example A: One of our local puzzles involves a 15x10 matrix of two-digit numbers. This one had a couple red herrings but the one that I bit on involved recognizing a particular pattern in the matrix of numbers. A very nice solution resulted from this pattern, just too perfect for coincidence. Only the problem was the coordinates were a private residence and not searchable (plus the coord checker tells you this is wrong). Turns out it was the home of another one of the local puzzle cachers. This red herring was intentional and meant to give that other cacher a good laugh, but amusingly he never found the "tribute" red-herring.

Example B: One puzzle I worked on had multiple stages with different ciphers. One of the ciphers involved a 6x7 grid of numbers (digits 0-9). At one of the other stages I found a string of text with 42 characters in it and assumed that it related to the grid of numbers. I spent months trying to determine how to use the matrix to decode the text string. Turns out they weren't related at all. The CO hadn't intended this as a Red Herring, but I bit on it hard anyways.

Obviously, sharing solutions to puzzle caches is forbidden, but sharing red-herring solutions? Seems harmless to me? And provides a forum to vent puzzle solving frustration... (or delight if you will).

I know of a puzzle cache that had some really elaborate red herrings but I can't think of a way to describe them without spoiling at least a portion of the puzzle.

Obviously, sharing solutions to a puzzle cache is forbidden but sharing red herrings that could be attributed to a puzzle, still could spoil the puzzle.

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...but sharing red herrings that could be attributed to a puzzle, still could spoil the puzzle.

I agree. I think the references made in the opening post were fine, here in a global forum, as they don't specify which puzzles the red herrings belong to. I would be much less comfortable seeing such detail provided in a local forum, since revealing the red herrings does take away, somewhat, from the puzzle.

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Not the same as a Red Herring, but I own a puzzle that people tend to solve to an obvious but wrong answer. When I placed it, I put a container at the wrong coords, a single word in it that should lead to the correct solution (doable on the spot too.

after some back and forth with seekers over the puzzle, I changed my mind, and added a coords checker to the listing. Which turned out to just as well, because the container at the wrong coords was missing when I went out to remove it.

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Here are few general types of red herrings I've seen in puzzles. I've tried to avoid anything that could identify specific puzzles.

Puzzles often generate a string of digits (e.g., 372550212206534). Usually, those digits should be interpreted in "decimal minutes" format (e.g., N 37° 25.502' W 122° 06.534'), because that's the default format on the geocaching.com site. But I've found a few puzzles where those digits should have been interpreted either in "decimal degrees" format (e.g., N 37.25502° W 122.06534°) or in "degrees minutes seconds" format (e.g., N 37° 25' 50.2" W 122° 06' 53.4"). Part of the puzzle was figuring out which location was the correct one (e.g., realizing that the "decimal minutes" interpretation put you in the middle of the bay, and the terrain rating wasn't high enough for that).

A common type of puzzle is a series of photographs, where each photograph represents a digit of the coordinates. I've found a few like this where the first few photos are arranged so there are multiple interpretations that yield likely latitude values. But if you work out the entire series of photos the wrong way, the value for the longitude is obviously bogus. For example, if the correct solution (based on the height of each actor) is N 37° 25.502' W 122° 06.534', then the red herring solution (based on the first letter of each actor's name) might be N 37° 25.175' W 294° 92.466'.

Another approach I've seen is for the puzzle text to tell you how to solve the puzzle (e.g., "This puzzle is not original. I expect most people will solve it by viewing the source, where the solution can be found."), and then the description presents obvious puzzle(s). Those who try to solve the obvious puzzles get the red herring solutions, which are generally unreasonable locations. Those who follow the instructions (e.g., "viewing the

` source, where the solution can be found") get the correct solution.`
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I've did one which had a long bit of ciphertext in the description. So as you would expect I cracked the cipher. What came out was a bunch of text, the very last words of which were "this is all a red herring".

I found it quite annoying really.

Never have found the actual solution.

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Oh, geeze, don't get me started. The ones I really hate are the ones where the red herring solution is perfectly reasonable and there's no checker, so the only way to discover it's a red herring is to look for the cache and not find it there. One particularly annoying example of that I ran into had the red herring solution point to a lamp skirt, so it literally was every bit as reasonable as the real solution. There was one oblique hint that suggested that that solution wouldn't be the right one.

Another red herring I ran into was a puzzle with a seemingly obvious puzzle requiring a nifty technique -- projections -- that I'd just learned about, so I was pleased to be able to work out the solution. But the geochecker rejected it. It took me a while to notice that the answer I'd calculated was, in fact, the posted coordinates, which was suppose to tip me off that that answer was a red herring. Argh!

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I've did one which had a long bit of ciphertext in the description. So as you would expect I cracked the cipher. What came out was a bunch of text, the very last words of which were "this is all a red herring".

I found it quite annoying really.

Never have found the actual solution.

Do the posted coords work?

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Oh, geeze, don't get me started. The ones I really hate are the ones where the red herring solution is perfectly reasonable and there's no checker, so the only way to discover it's a red herring is to look for the cache and not find it there. One particularly annoying example of that I ran into had the red herring solution point to a lamp skirt, so it literally was every bit as reasonable as the real solution. There was one oblique hint that suggested that that solution wouldn't be the right one.

Another red herring I ran into was a puzzle with a seemingly obvious puzzle requiring a nifty technique -- projections -- that I'd just learned about, so I was pleased to be able to work out the solution. But the geochecker rejected it. It took me a while to notice that the answer I'd calculated was, in fact, the posted coordinates, which was suppose to tip me off that that answer was a red herring. Argh!

Lol, just read your last sentence, which was what I was thinking when I just replied a redsox second ago.

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It took me a while to notice that the answer I'd calculated was, in fact, the posted coordinates, which was suppose to tip me off that that answer was a red herring.
Yeah, I've seen that approach too. The description starts with "The cache is NOT located at the posted coordinates", and then multiple puzzles are presented. All but one produce the posted coordinates as their red-herring solution.
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There's one that's not been solved and was published almost a year ago. There's a couple red herrings involved and it's getting frustrating but I want it's glory.

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I tend not to enjoy puzzles with red herrings in them, unless the creator has made them amusing (for the solver).

Unfortunately, I am a big fat hypocrite and I sometimes cannot resist the urge to put misdirection in my puzzles. For example, this puzzle has a naive (but wrong) solution that looks very easy. I constructed the puzzle so that the naive solution puts you right next to a trail in a likely spot. Initially I didn't have a validation link on the page, and more than one finder went to the bad coords. For which I should probably feel bad.

This one likewise has a tempting (but wrong) solution built in. In that case, though, the wrong solution is part of the right solution, so time spent getting it is not wasted.

I suppose I ought to ask whether seekers find those annoying. I probably would.

Edited by fizzymagic
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I don't know if this one counts or not: 407ETR at Bayview

It is (possibly incorrectly) listed as a multi, not a puzzle.

It can produce an infinite number of viable herrings, and there is no geochecker.

I don't bother with the solution any more -- I periodically go by the area and brute-force a section of the probable final.

One of these days I will stumble over the thing.

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I don't know if this one counts or not: 407ETR at Bayview

It is (possibly incorrectly) listed as a multi, not a puzzle.

It can produce an infinite number of viable herrings, and there is no geochecker.

What is the deal with Canadians and the word "westing?" There is no such thing, and their use of the word "northings" is almost certainly incorrect.

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I don't know if this one counts or not: 407ETR at Bayview

It is (possibly incorrectly) listed as a multi, not a puzzle.

It can produce an infinite number of viable herrings, and there is no geochecker.

What is the deal with Canadians and the word "westing?" There is no such thing, and their use of the word "northings" is almost certainly incorrect.

It might be how the grid references on the older printed versions of the federal Natural Resources Canada topographical maps are set up. I don't have one here at work, but when I get home I'll have a look at the key on one and get back to you.

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Not intentional but I had quite a tough puzzle out. Several people solved it wrong but the all got the same co-ords. They all went to that location s and found something that looked suspiciously like a geocache, with my hide style, and it happened to not belong there. Turns out there was a pinhole camera set to capture the sunrise. It's last images where of a couple cachers staring at it.

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I don't know if this one counts or not: 407ETR at Bayview

It is (possibly incorrectly) listed as a multi, not a puzzle.

It can produce an infinite number of viable herrings, and there is no geochecker.

What is the deal with Canadians and the word "westing?" There is no such thing, and their use of the word "northings" is almost certainly incorrect.

It might be how the grid references on the older printed versions of the federal Natural Resources Canada topographical maps are set up. I don't have one here at work, but when I get home I'll have a look at the key on one and get back to you.

It was a good theory, but I only half remembered. Northing is a thing on those maps, westing is not:

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Sometimes I don't mind red herrings, sometimes they're downright annoying.

I wasted hours and hours on one puzzle. Turns out the dadgum coordinates were right on the cache page. Worst part is, the cache went missing and it got archived before I could get my smilie.

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I tend not to enjoy puzzles with red herrings in them, unless the creator has made them amusing (for the solver).

Unfortunately, I am a big fat hypocrite and I sometimes cannot resist the urge to put misdirection in my puzzles.

I was gonna say! I almost did a spit-take on that first sentence!

I suppose I ought to ask whether seekers find those annoying. I probably would.

No, of course. In the hands of a fine craftsman such as yourself, misdirection makes for a good challenge that is worth a little discomfort. Unfortunately, those that aren't good craftsman cannot see that their red herrings are just mean.

You've reminded me of another amazing example by a devious Russian. The puzzle was solved before I was even geocaching, and I was fed the solution so I didn't experience the pain first hand, but the report tells me that the puzzle sucked the solvers into deeper and deeper encryption which seemed like progress but strangely didn't get anywhere. It was only later that they realized they'd been tricked into marching right past the solution way back near the beginning. The solution turned out to be more subtle yet much easier to find than the obvious challenges they'd been tackling.

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I've did one which had a long bit of ciphertext in the description. So as you would expect I cracked the cipher. What came out was a bunch of text, the very last words of which were "this is all a red herring".

I found it quite annoying really.

Never have found the actual solution.

Do the posted coords work?

Unfortunately, no.

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A friend and I are trying to do one at the moment. One of the red herring on that one is how to make a tin foil hat… :/ all that work to decipher text to find that it's taken me to a comical PDF

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On one of my puzzle pages:

A link on another puzzle page:

Yeah, I like red herrings...

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Oh, you call them Red Herrings. New idiom in my vocabulary. In one of my caches there was a statuette of a cat and a note inside one of the intermediate containers. At all the previous steps there were also different animals: hens, dogs, etc. Old McDonald had a farm. So, it was the cat. The note listed coordinates of the next step with some really simple math to calculate the spot. It was about 300 meters away through really thick forest. If one solved the task and got to that location successfully he/she could find another container with a statuette of a pig inside The attached note said: "Cats also lose their heads sometimes". The trick was that the cat was the only statuette in the series which could be opened with a twisting movement so its head was off and there was another note inside the cat's body with the correct coordinates for the next move.

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Once solved I enjoy them, but when all you have is red herrings it can be a slight pain. I have found that those of us who enjoy puzzle solving are also really good at seeing patterns that were never intended by the creator. I have come up with a few good puzzle ideas by trying to solve someone else's puzzle and following the wrong thread. In fact I have a puzzle that is full of red herrings. I give the correct last 3 digits of north and west but not the order. The page has like 14 permutations of these digits all hidden in puzzles (some obvious others very obscure) and one of them is correct.

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OT

What is the deal with Canadians and the word "westing?" There is no such thing, and their use of the word "northings" is almost certainly incorrect.

Grid systems vary, but the most common is a square grid with grid lines numbered sequentially from the origin at the bottom left of the map. The grid numbers on the east-west (horizontal) axis are called Eastings, and the grid numbers on the north-south (vertical) axis are called Northings.

Northing and Easting are commonly used on cartesian maps as references. However, the choice of the origin (bottom left) is arbirtrary and maps could easily employ Westings and Southings (top right) as it is only a convention.

You will find that Northing/Easting/Southing/Westing share similar definations and are appropriate to the arbitrary spherical model (Lat/Long/Alt) that geocaching employs.

I would concede that the use of "Northings" should be singular in the write up...

north·ing (nôrthng, -ng)

n.

1. The difference in latitude between two positions as a result of a movement to the north.

2. Progress toward the north.

east·ing (stng)

n.

1. The difference in longitude between two positions as a result of movement to the east.

2. Progress toward the east.

south·ing (soung)

n.

1. The difference in latitude between two positions as a result of a movement to the south.

2. Progress toward the south.

west·ing (wstng)

n.

1. The difference in longitude between two positions as a result of a movement to the west.

2. Progress toward the west.

they ran their westing down toward a dark unknown

he likes directions military style, eastings and westings and that

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As a cache hunter I prefer red herrings (and puzzles at whole) that are all in field. Solving puzzles as a homework at my computer doesn't make me happy.

After all, aren't red herrings close to what we call treasure hunting? Imagine how short would "Captain Grant's Children" be with only one solution given!

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I've did one which had a long bit of ciphertext in the description. So as you would expect I cracked the cipher. What came out was a bunch of text, the very last words of which were "this is all a red herring".

I found it quite annoying really.

Never have found the actual solution.

Do the posted coords work?

Unfortunately, no.

I figured you probably already checked, but thought I'd just ask.

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Oh, you call them Red Herrings. New idiom in my vocabulary. In one of my caches there was a statuette of a cat and a note inside one of the intermediate containers. At all the previous steps there were also different animals: hens, dogs, etc. Old McDonald had a farm. So, it was the cat. The note listed coordinates of the next step with some really simple math to calculate the spot. It was about 300 meters away through really thick forest. If one solved the task and got to that location successfully he/she could find another container with a statuette of a pig inside The attached note said: "Cats also lose their heads sometimes". The trick was that the cat was the only statuette in the series which could be opened with a twisting movement so its head was off and there was another note inside the cat's body with the correct coordinates for the next move.

I suppose people may define "red herring" different ways. What you're describing sound more like what some have describe here as "decoy caches". To me, a red herring in the context of a puzzle cache would be an intentionally embedded piece of information that would lead the potential solver down a path that eventually leads to a dead end. For example, a cache owner might include a link to a web site that appears to be related to the puzzle. The potential solver might click on the link then start looking for clues that would help solve the puzzle but it would just be a dead end and offer no information that could help solve the puzzle. The link is the red herring.

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Oh, you call them Red Herrings. New idiom in my vocabulary. In one of my caches there was a statuette of a cat and a note inside one of the intermediate containers. At all the previous steps there were also different animals: hens, dogs, etc. Old McDonald had a farm. So, it was the cat. The note listed coordinates of the next step with some really simple math to calculate the spot. It was about 300 meters away through really thick forest. If one solved the task and got to that location successfully he/she could find another container with a statuette of a pig inside The attached note said: "Cats also lose their heads sometimes". The trick was that the cat was the only statuette in the series which could be opened with a twisting movement so its head was off and there was another note inside the cat's body with the correct coordinates for the next move.

I suppose people may define "red herring" different ways. What you're describing sound more like what some have describe here as "decoy caches". To me, a red herring in the context of a puzzle cache would be an intentionally embedded piece of information that would lead the potential solver down a path that eventually leads to a dead end. For example, a cache owner might include a link to a web site that appears to be related to the puzzle. The potential solver might click on the link then start looking for clues that would help solve the puzzle but it would just be a dead end and offer no helpful information that could help solve the puzzle. The link is the red herring.

I feel I didn't catch the idea. In my example the note in the cat container with false puzzle/coordinates leaving to the pig container (which is dead end) is not the red herring. In your example the link to the website that leads to the dead end is the red herring. The difference is that in the pig cache there's some vague clue that could (or could not) be helpful and in your example the "bogus" website has no information at all. Is this the difference? Does "red herring" means it leads to the "absolute" dead end?

Or did you mean that red herrings were supposed to be posted online?

Edited by -CJ-
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I feel I didn't catch the idea. In my example the note in the cat container with false puzzle/coordinates leaving to the pig container (which is dead end) is not the red herring. In your example the link to the website that leads to the dead end is the red herring. The difference is that in the pig cache there's some vague clue that could (or could not) be helpful and in your example the "bogus" website has no information at all. Is this the difference? Does "red herring" means it leads to the "absolute" dead end?

I think you've grasped the concept quite well. A red herring is any attempt to divert you from the true path. Your example is perfect: an obvious pointer that distracts you from the true pointer that is a little better hidden.

The other poster talked about "decoy caches", which I would consider a type of red herring. But I consider decoy caches to be caches that are in the right place, they just aren't the true cache. In your example, the container revealing the deceit was at different, red herring coordinates, so I don't consider that a decoy, just a pure red herring. (I suppose we could debate whether the coordinates or the container should be considered the red herring, but I'd call them both parts of the same red herring.)

By the way, I'm just the opposite from you: I'd much rather find a red herring sitting comfortably at my computer. I hate it when the red herring can only be discovered by going somewhere for no reason other than to find something that tells you you've been fooled.

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Oh, you call them Red Herrings. New idiom in my vocabulary. In one of my caches there was a statuette of a cat and a note inside one of the intermediate containers. At all the previous steps there were also different animals: hens, dogs, etc. Old McDonald had a farm. So, it was the cat. The note listed coordinates of the next step with some really simple math to calculate the spot. It was about 300 meters away through really thick forest. If one solved the task and got to that location successfully he/she could find another container with a statuette of a pig inside The attached note said: "Cats also lose their heads sometimes". The trick was that the cat was the only statuette in the series which could be opened with a twisting movement so its head was off and there was another note inside the cat's body with the correct coordinates for the next move.

I suppose people may define "red herring" different ways. What you're describing sound more like what some have describe here as "decoy caches". To me, a red herring in the context of a puzzle cache would be an intentionally embedded piece of information that would lead the potential solver down a path that eventually leads to a dead end. For example, a cache owner might include a link to a web site that appears to be related to the puzzle. The potential solver might click on the link then start looking for clues that would help solve the puzzle but it would just be a dead end and offer no helpful information that could help solve the puzzle. The link is the red herring.

I feel I didn't catch the idea. In my example the note in the cat container with false puzzle/coordinates leaving to the pig container (which is dead end) is not the red herring. In your example the link to the website that leads to the dead end is the red herring. The difference is that in the pig cache there's some vague clue that could (or could not) be helpful and in your example the "bogus" website has no information at all. Is this the difference? Does "red herring" means it leads to the "absolute" dead end?

Or did you mean that red herrings were supposed to be posted online?

Certainly there is room for interpretation as to what is a "Red Herring" and it is most definitely an english language idiom, so those whose native languages are not English may have other terms for it. The dictionary/wiki definition leaves plenty of room for interpretation, Wikipedia: red Herring. My take is that it truly must be a dead end. In your example if the pig container did not have a hint leading back to the cat's head, it would certainly be a Red Herring. And it would very much frustrate cachers and probably not be liked very much (I imagine). I have also heard people call these kind of hides decoys (something you find which is not what you are looking for, but at least the CO states that it is the wrong thing so you know to keep looking). However, I did not mean that red-herrings were suppose to be online although for many who enjoy working on puzzles, the red herrings pop up well before they go into the field.

I also completely agree with earlier responses that sharing red herrings may reduce puzzle enjoyment for some, or even reveal too much especially for some of the "harder" puzzles out there. The line between what is a red herring and what is simply misdirection is blurry. So perhaps this thread should fizzle out right now. Really, my intention was to share what I found to be some amusing and rather inconsequential red herrings. I bet there are some really wicked ones out there and I thought it would be fun for people to share (much in the vein of sharing your worst injury suffered while geocaching). Perhaps though, the best action is to simply discover these red herrings myself.

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Thank you both for your interpretations. And yes, the term is quite new to me though now I understand I've used such tricks at different caches that I owned before. In most situations however I tried to suggest "assymmetric" solutions. For instance, at one cache there was a set of 12 coordinates leading to 12 different points at the perimeter of the object (an abandoned sanatorium) so cachers could go and check them one by one. However if they paid attention to a couple of small details they could understand that the whole set was a puzzle and if they solved that puzzle they had only one correct solution as a result. Other 11 spots were dead ends with no additional clues. It wasn't any homework, everything was expected to be done in field. No one has ever complained about this part of the puzzle (the whole puzzle cache was much bigger) to be frustrating. It was their own choice whether to use brute force or try to think a bit deeper.

I don't see much fun in red herrings where e.g. there are 12 variants and no one of these 12 variants could be chosen as preferrable by any logic. So yes, I also don't like solving such brute force tasks in field (neither I like them at home, actually). However if it is supposed that some time of thinking could lead me to correct answer I would say the CO prepared his quest wisely and if I had to find several red herrings to find in field before I caught the idea I would be happy and my only regrets would be that I wasn't as clever as I could be

Edited by -CJ-
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OT

Let's start a new thread for that.

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